03 March 2024

A Small KX2 Upgrade

I continue to be impressed by Elecraft and their long-term support for products that other manufacturers would consider 'end-of-life' and not worth investing time or effort on. Case in point is the KX2, introduced in 2016. While eight years isn't really that long for an amateur radio to be in production, it is unusual for a radio to see firmware improvements and factory hardware upgrades this far into its production life. Yet 'obsolete' and 'end of life' don't seem to be in the Elecraft vocabulary; they continue to provide support for rigs that have been out of production for years. There are no orphans in the Elecraft line-up.

Case in point with the KX2 is the recent release of the KXIBC2 internal battery charger board. The KXIBC2 replaces the internal clock board and adds the ability to charge a factory Li-ion battery inside the rig and provides a real-time clock. This is a big improvement, and addresses one of the major complaints many have of the KX2. As designed, the battery pack had to be charged outside of the rig - open the radio and remove the battery, plug it into a charger, when fully charged re-install it in the radio. Elecraft originally designed the radio this way because back in 2015, when the design was finalized, Li-ion charging technology wasn't what it is today, and Elecraft thought it was smarter and safer to require charging outside the radio. Nine years on, Elecraft figured out a power management system that allows the Li-ion pack to be charged safely while inside the radio. The KXIBC2 board is available as a factory option, or a user installed kit.

The kit arrived a week ago, and yesterday I decided it was time to dive in and do the upgrade. In typical Elecraft fashion, the installation instructions are well thought out and easy to follow. It's a simple matter of pulling out the old clock board, popping in the new charger board, soldering two jumpers to the main board and adjusting the radio settings to recognize the new board. In my case I needed to do a firmware update (v3.00 to v3.02). 

The KXIBC2 board installed (right side of the picture. It replaces to old real-time clock 
board, but provides a charge controller plus real-time clock. The red and white pins
will be soldered to the main board. The large open space will be taken up by the Li-ion battery

The KXIBC2 board seen from the 'outboard' side

Jumper wires soldered in place on the main board

Battery pack in place, time to test. The LED on the charger board is a steady
yellow, so the battery is charging and all's good!

A quick firmware update brings everything up to snuff

The little rig is merrily charging away, getting ready for the next radio adventure!

There you have it. A dandy little rig made even better, courtesy of a company that actually listens to and engages with its customers.

W8BYH out

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